You may have heard that copy always comes before design in the process of building a web page, but we think it's a little more complicated than that. Here's why.
Copywriting and Page Design Should Be a Collaborative Process
A web page that converts is inherently going to be the outcome of a cohesive creation
process. In the case of a "double-blind" scenario — in which the writer and the designer are working separately — the result will likely be something disjointed and largely ineffective to the purpose of a page.
Designers and Writers Need to Be Informed About Goals
A web page created without a rock-solid strategy isn't likely to be effective. The first step to creating a page that converts is to make sure both designers and copywriters are fully aware of the priorities and objectives of the page in question.
Answer key questions, such as, who are we trying to reach with this page, and what are we trying to get them to do?
Clarifying exactly what the goal of a page is means allowing both parts of the page creation process to collaborate, even if the work is happening separately.
Let's think about an example: the writers focus on soft calls to action (CTAs) and credibility building while the design team optimizes the page to drive conversions. The result will be confusing to anyone who happens to visit that page, and more often than not, they'll navigate away without taking a single action.
It Takes Two to Tell the Story
A good copywriter is an expert in crafting an arrow with their words, but does that matter without a collaborative design process?
No, because the structure of a page can completely distract from an effective narrative.
Let's say you have a writer who creates the perfect case study, but, when it's time to be
coded, it goes into a generic, "one size fits all" web page template. This would likely limit the impact of the page.
It's the role of the designer to understand how to best take a story and bring it to life, from using the right images to making certain points stand out more than others on a page. If this isn't done correctly, the outcome will be watered down.
You might be thinking, this settles it. Copy always comes first. But don't forget...
Some Web Design Best Practices Don't Involve Copy
As much as we want to give writers total freedom to create, some web design best practices happen almost entirely separate from the text that goes on the page. Take CTAs for example, something that most web designers agree should be built into the page
framework as well as used more indirectly in the page copy.
Some of the best practices involving CTAs are non-negotiable, and may have an effect on the layout of the page. This has to be clear to a writer before they start crafting copy — if a page is written without the knowledge of how much space is available in certain sections, there are risks that can hurt the overall effectiveness of a page:
- The text may end up being too small, which can affect readability
- The image sizing and space organization may be inconsistent in some parts of the page compared to others
When these happen, web pages start to look random, and users won't interact with the
page in the intended ways.
Two Heads Are Better than One
One of the main reasons why high-performing web pages come from a collaborative design process is because the copy and the design on a page are inexorably related — this means
that the expertise of the writer inherently complements the expertise of the designer.
When two experienced professionals with related areas of expertise come together to plan
a page, the final product will benefit from the combined knowledge of the two creators,
making it so much more than just the sum of its parts.
Is Your Web Design Process Collaborative?
The first way to understand whether or not your web design process is leveraging the
benefits of collaboration between copywriters and designers is to audit the process. Are
both parties aware of the page's objective before the process starts? Do they create their parts of the final product completely separately?
How much is it really hurting you when these two parts of the process don't interact? To answer that, we suggest looking at some user session recordings on the page in question.
More often than not, what you're going to see are users confused about what to do on the page — which signals wasted time for your team, no matter how skilled they are.